In late 1998, when Marissa Mayer first heard about a small outfit called Google, she barely batted an eye. The Stanford University grad student was urged by her adviser to pay a visit to two guys on the computer science building's fourth floor who were developing ways to analyze the World Wide Web.
But Internet startups were as common as hay fever in Silicon Valley. Mayer, then 23, was leaning toward taking a teaching gig at Carnegie Mellon University. And the thought of joining up with the university's techies wasn't exactly appealing. "I knew about the Stanford PhD types," she muses. "They love to Rollerblade. They eat pizza for breakfast. They don't shower much. And they don't say 'Sorry' when they bump into you in the hallway."